Duration: 2 – 12 weeks
Requirements: 18yrs+ currently studying for (or already hold) a vet related qualification
Location: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre & Kuti Wildlife Reserve
Activities: Veterinary support, clinical research, animal husbandry, orphan care, Clinical Projects in One Health, vet course
Dates: All year, arriving and departing on a Tuesday
Are you looking for experience in wildlife medicine or keen to apply your veterinary skills to support a good cause? If so, then our vet externship programme could be for you! You must have a relevant qualification or already be enrolled as a vet student working towards a qualification to be eligible. We can also cater for students looking for ‘hours’ to count towards their degree.
LWT’s veterinary externship programme has been developed especially for vets, vet students and vet nurses who are looking to support a deserving project as well as gain a rich and diverse experience across wildlife conservation and veterinary medicine. The Wildlife Centre is accredited by the world’s top welfare and conservation organisations and is one of the most respected sanctuaries in Africa, meaning you can be sure to learn ‘best practice’ during your time with us. And – given that veterinary work in any working sanctuary is always dependent on what cases there are at the time – you can be rest assured that we stay busy in between clinical work! Our new Clinical Projects in One Health programme also offers the chance to contribute to an important body of clinical research as well as split your time between the sanctuary and ‘bush’. Our intensive vet course is perfect for those looking for intensive hands-on learning.
Working hours are dependent on the animals we have in at the time and on the level of care they need. Ideally, vet externs will work from 8am till 5pm, but during orphan season feeds will be scheduled during unsocial hours. We try our best to split this up, but please be aware that there may be some long days or even some night shifts.
Rescue and Rehabilitation
Externs work across all aspects of the rehabilitation process from animal husbandry (feeding, cleaning, etc) to integrations, observations and re- introductions. Immersing yourself in the wider operations of a busy wildlife sanctuary (last year, there were 126 rescues, 220 animals under rehabilitation and a total of 45 animals released) is invaluable experience for understanding the role of the veterinary professionals within that working environment
Wildlife sanctuary vet work is by its very nature more sporadic in comparison to a domestic animal surgery but, even with a full-time vet and vet nurse on-site, additional assistance has always been critical to the smooth running of the department. Externs assist the team in all aspects of veterinary care at the Wildlife Centre, ranging from incoming exams and emergency operations through to health checks and routine diagnostics. Due to health and safety considerations, only staff members are cleared to work on the Wildlife Emergency Response Unit. Dr Salb is happy to share her experiences with you and hosts lectures and workshops wherever possible.
Since we aim to release as many animals as possible back into the wild, we operate a strict hands-off policy. That said, some orphans need special attention and round-the-clock care to ensure that they have the best possible chance of survival and rehabilitation, so you may well be stepping in with surrogacy work and providing all aspects of care in those early days. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience to see animals progress and know that you have played a vital part in their journey back to where they belong.
Research & other learning opportunities
We’re keen to help our vet externs learn as much as they possibly can during their time with us and, where schedules permit, the team will often find time to squeeze in a lecture or lab. If this is something you are interested in, please ask the team about what they have planned when you arrive. We can also cater for a limited number of students each year who wish to conduct research specific to their studies. Please send us your research idea/proposal so we can look at whether we can accommodate you.
One Health Project
LWT’s One Health project is running from 2017-19 and vet externs are welcome to support the core team. This is an excellent opportunity for students to split their time between the sanctuary and the bush. Research is focused on:
- Zoonotic fecal pathogens in monkeys around the reserve
- Fecal pathogens in hoofstock, with special attention to helminths affecting production in domestic livestock and body condition in wild hoofstock
- Rodent vectors for selected bacterial infections
- Fecal helminths in domestic dogs in villages around the reserve, especially those with zoonotic potential
Read more about the project here.
Our intensive hands-on Wildlife Veterinary Medicine Course runs for seven days, under the instruction of Malawi’s leading wildlife vet. You will be taught through both lectures and wet labs and have the opportunity to help out with our annual health monitoring programme which includes physical exams, patient monitoring and sample collection and analysis.
The course is limited to 8 participants and is very popular so please book early. Course dates are currently July 12- 19, July 24-31 and July 31-Aug 7. Below is the course itinerary:
Tuesday: Arrival, sanctuary orientation and introductions
Wednesday: Lectures & wet labs in parasitology, hematology & observations in primate infectious & non-infectious diseases, emergency management.
Thursday: Primate health checks. Lecture/lab in avian exams & procedures.
Friday: Primate health checks. Lecture/lab in small mammal rehabilitation, pharmacology and medication techniques.
Saturday: Primate health checks. Lecture/lab suture patterns in wildlife.
Sunday: Lecture and practical lab in remote capture systems. Travel to Wildlife Reserve. Game drive.
Monday: Conservation round table discussion. Game drive. Return to Lilongwe, farewell supper.
Tuesday: Summary and departure.
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre:
Volunteers stay at the Wildlife Centre in Lilongwe, living right in the middle of the sanctuary but still close to the ‘luxuries’ of town. The Wildlife Centre is Malawi’s only wildlife sanctuary, is set in a stunning 180 hectare reserve. The sanctuary is currently home to close to 200 rescued animals, and the reserve itself is teaming with wildlife, including over 200 species of bird, and large animals such as crocodile, bushpigs, antelopes and hyenas. It is Lilongwe’s only protected wilderness and is cited as a critical area of biodiversity.
Accommodation: The volunteer house is right in the heart of the sanctuary and so you are surrounded by our animals. This allows you to experience the wild side of Africa and yet you are still close enough to the city to enjoy some of the benefits of civilisation. The house has basic mixed co-ed ten bed dorm-style accommodation with electricity, kitchen, lounge area, garden, bathroom and hot showers. There is a cleaner and a cook, and you can also upgrade to one of our two chalets which can sleep up to four people, with an en-suite bathroom and a small balcony. It is next to the volunteer house so you will still have the chance to eat and socialise with the other volunteers.
Food: Vegetarian meals and drinking water are included and are served from Monday to Saturday by our local cook Joseph, who provides international meals along with some Malawian dishes (that he is more than happy to show you how to make). Joseph takes a day off on Sundays so you can alternate with the other volunteers to cook up a feast, or you can check out what the local restaurants have to offer. Food in Malawi is basic and we have to work with the seasons and availability, but Joseph does a great job and we can still cater for any specific dietary requirements.
Kuti Wildlife Reserve:
Those participating in the One Health project will also spend time at Kuti Wildlife Reserve. Kuti is a 2000 hectare wildlife reserve 1.5 hours away from Lilongwe and 30 minutes from Lake Malawi.
Accommodation: Basic shared accommodation, with solar power and hot water available in the mornings and evenings. You can also upgrade to private accommodation.
Food: Vegetarian meals and drinking water are included
Travel and Free Time
Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa for its friendly people and lush landscapes, and it’s generally viewed as the ‘safest’ country to travel in Africa. Volunteers are able to take one day off a week, but, at the discretion of the management, it is possible to take off more or less time, dependent on emergencies and what projects you have going on. Volunteers who work longer than a month will also be given a long weekend off every 4 weeks. We highly recommend that you spend weekends off at the ‘lake of stars’, or perhaps a safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. We can help you with your booking and show you the best deals. Other options include:
- Senga Bay: Boat trip, snorkelling, swimming.
- Liwonde National park: Game drives and boat trips
- Cape Maclear: Boat trips, paddle-boarding, canoes, booze cruise, hiking.
- Blantyre: City trip
- Kande: Horse Stables
- Dezda: Pottery, paper workshop, hiking, cave paintings
- Kuti Wildlife Reserve: Wildlife viewing
By African standards, Lilongwe is a safe, clean and relatively quiet city with just the right amount of nightlife, which we will be more than happy to introduce you to! There are craft and food markets within walking distance, where you can browse the stalls for curios, pick up some local veg and practice your haggling. Many lodges and hotels also have pools and spa facilities which are also worth taking advantage of!
- 2 or 4 Bed Private Chalet – £20/$26 per night for up to 2 people plus £12/$15 per additional person
- Shared Chalet – £12/$15 per night
- Airport transfers not scheduled for a Tuesday cost £30/$39 one way
Where does the money go?
All of the money raised through our volunteer programme, after costs, goes directly into the Wildlife Centre and its associated projects – without you the Wildlife Centre would not be able to continue to operate! Your donation means that we can continue to take in animals, feed and provide the essential medical care that they need, and pay local wages.
- All meals and unlimited tea, coffee and drinking water
- Transfers to and from the airport and all work-related transport
- Wifi, t-shirt and local SIM card
- Orientation and training in all relevant departments, plus full support from the Volunteer Coordinator during your stay.
Price doesn’t include:
- Vaccinations, travel and medical insurance
- Visa ($75 single entry 30 day visa, plus extensions every 30 days = $10)
- Additional excursions, nights out, souvenirs and personal expenses such as soft drinks, beers, snacks.
We recommend bringing out a little extra to spend on drinks, meals out and souvenirs. £30 a week should more than cover these, depending on your lifestyle. As an idea of costs for extra trips, you will need about £65-£125 if you want to take a trip to Lake Malawi, dependent on accommodation and activities. A 3 day safari to Zambia would be around £350.
We get fully booked very quickly especially in peak periods and to avoid disappointment we can only guarantee your place when a £200 holding deposit is paid. A final deposit is due 2 months prior to arrival and then the rest needs to be paid in cash when you arrive.
Malawi is known for its friendly people and beautiful places but poverty, deforestation and wildlife crime have put the nation’s wildlife under immense pressure. Lilongwe Wildlife Trust is Malawi’s leading wildlife welfare and conservation organisation and is internationally renowned for its wildlife rescue and rehabilitation work as well as its high impact wildlife law enforcement initiaives.
The Wildlife Centre is currently the only accredited wildlife sanctuary in Malawi and home to on average 200 rescued wild animals. International volunteers are critical to the sanctuary’s rehabilitation programme as all of the money raised through the volunteer programme, after costs, goes directly into the Wildlife Centre and its associated projects. Without our volunteers the Wildlife Centre would not be able to continue to operate! Your donation would help us continue to take in animals, feed and provide the essential medical care that they need, and pay local wages.
We aren’t able to give out other vet externs contact details, however once you have been accepted you can join our Facebook page where you can post any questions and find out who will be at LWC at the same time as you.
Any time! Lilongwe has a reasonably temperate climate for Africa. Wet season is from November/December to February/March, but it is actually very pleasant as rains last only an hour or so in the afternoon plus it makes the country lush and green! It reaches around 32 degrees in the hot months of October and November, and the coolest month is July, at around 25 degrees but still bright and sunny.
The Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is based in the heart of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, a 30 minute drive from the Kenyatta International, the main airport. Kuti Wildlife Reserve is just 1 hour away.
You can book your flight easily online through websites such as Opodo.com, lastminute.com or directly with the airline. South African Airways (via Johannesburg), Kenyan Airways (via Nairobi ), and Ethiopian Airways (via Addis Ababa) all fly to Lilongwe. There are offices for all of these airlines in Lilongwe so there should be no problem if you need to change your flight when you are here (this is a regular occurrence with volunteers that extend their stay!) We will arrange all your airport transfers in Lilongwe. If you are travelling overland or from elsewhere let us know and we can let you know the best way to get here.
It’s best if you can start and end your placement on a Tuesday.
We take health and safety very seriously and whilst you are unlikely to get seriously ill or injured it is paramount that you are well prepared, aware of potential risks and know what to do in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong. If you decide to proceed with the placement you will receive a detailed information pack that includes a detailed health and safety section. You need to start thinking about vaccinations several weeks and sometimes months in advance, so we advise you visit your doctor and start planning in good time.
Maureen, University of Findlay
"I knew I was interested in wildlife work on an international level but having the chance to experience it for myself has helped focus in on my career goals and start making connections within the field."
Read more reviews here.
If you’re interested in joining us please email email@example.com or send us an enquiry below and we’ll email you an enquiry pack and application form. We look forward to hearing from you!